The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

Pronunciation and the Sewys

By Eric L Sewell

This article was originally published in the April 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

Don Steels article in Soul Search (Dec 1992, reprinted Dec 2001) amply describes the effects of pronunciation on the recording of the SOUL-SOLLEY-SEWELL variants. When researching the origins of SEWELLs there have been occasions when I found the name SEWY in the index. Its appearance, between the mid-13th and mid-14th century, seems to be confined to the south of England, mainly Devon, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Naturally one wonders if this could be yet another variant.

SEWY, as a surname, seems to have dwindled. The only evidence in the 1881 Census is of two SEWEYs. Likewise a search of the IGI reveals only one SEWY (in 1860) and two SEWEYs (in 1747 and 1863). There are, however, sixteen SOUGHWAYs or SOUWAYs or other such variants, many of them in Somerset. A further search of the 1881 Census for these names results in only three SOWEYs.

All this might suggest that this is another example of the confusion over the pronunciation of the e in sew is it sounded like an o as in low?

In the course of looking for the SEWYs, I could not fail to notice the rich assortment of variants recorded in the Wiltshire Subsidy Roll of 1331 (Wilts Rec. Soc. Vol XLV 1989). How did the clerks managed to distinguish which spelling to use? Some lack of uniformity in the spelling indicates that more than one clerk would have been involved. The high level of tax paid by some on the list suggests that these were landowners and they might just have been sufficiently literate to be able to spell their name

Malmesbury

Christine SEWILDE

8d

Damerham

John SEWEL

10s 10d

Heywood

Walter SEWALE

5s 3d

Littleton

John SEWALLE

8d

Netheravon

John SEWOLD

2s 8d

Charlton

John SEWY

9s 8d

Newton

John SEUEE

18d

Bury Blunsdon

Richard SEWY

2s 0d

Corsham

Maud SEWY

16d

Hinton

John SEWY

12d

Farleigh

Thomas SEWY

16d

Stoford

William SOLE

4s 0d

Stratford Tony

William le SOUL

8d

Little Wishford

Walter SOLLE

2s 3d

Newton Tony

Emme SOULE

18d

Downton

William ATTESOLE

4s 0d

Lacock

William de SEUELEYE

5s 4d

 

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